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The golden rules of designing a beautiful (and functional) kitchen

Designer Mark Rielly, director at interior architecture firm ARRCC, on what makes a successful kitchen

By House & Garden South Africa | April 11, 2022 | Kitchen

Make sure your kitchen engages your senses.

For me, luxury is not beautiful or expensive materials but rather the sensory experience where spaces create a backdrop for the delights of everyday living. With fast paced lifestyles, having moments of quiet and calm is the real luxury and having tailored spaces that facilitate these moments is heaven! The senses and physical experience of the space, together with materials, light and simplicity are the core to transcending luxury. At ARRCC, we like to focus on the authentic use of materials and details, engaging the senses – fire, water, dappled light, sounds and even smells.

Photograph courtesy of ARRCC

There’s inspiration everywhere – if you know where to look

Personally, I am mostly influenced by the clean lines and simplicity of mid-century design, but I am also inspired by the modern eclectic glamour of Kelly Wearstler, the curated austere approach of Axel Vervoordt, the purity and restraint of Vincent van Duysen and the monolithic brutalist approach of Rick Owens as well as the unexpected extravagance of Peter Marino.

You can never have too much storage

When planning a kitchen you need to fully understand a client’s needs and how they use these spaces. A concise inventory of what they have and what they need, will allow you to plan and allocate storage for every item with some additional space for flexibility. Shelving depth and spacing should also be considered and the same goes for the depth of drawers.

Photograph courtesy of ARRCC

Invest in natural materials

I love working with tactile materials, mostly natural and raw materials that will age and deepen in character over time. At ARRCC we enjoy shaping elements that are raw and transforming them into objects of luxury, simple organic materials like granite blocks or live-edge timber planks can be elevated with sophisticated detailing incorporating bronze trims or edging that add a layer of luxury. With natural materials you always must consider sealing options to ensure that they remain practical. Marbles and onyxes are more beautiful than granite surfaces but less practical to use in a kitchen due to their porous nature.

Beware of following trends

Trends don’t always have longevity and can be outdated very quickly. We prefer to work with materials that are modern and luxurious while at the same time remaining understated and timeless.

Even a neutral space can benefit from colour

We usually steer towards a neutral interior pallet and inject colour into a few signature elements such as unique marble slabs and decor including rugs, artwork, and cushion fabrics. Even though our preference may be neutrals some clients specifically challenged us to work with more colour throughout the project. We have found that natural and interior lighting play an important role in developing colour schemes. Dark moody spaces are best enhanced with dark tones; whilst light, neutral colours thrive best in light, fresh spaces. We are currently working on an interior on the Italian island of Elba and have been greatly inspired by the location and context of the project and have inject the interior finishes and fabrics with colour tones from the surrounds including terracotta, indigo, olive, fig and lemon.

Photograph courtesy of ARRCC

Matchy-matchy decor is a mistake

More successful projects feel curated and collected and less decorated. A well-designed room or item should feel intuitive and effortless. Contrast and juxtaposition create interest and uniqueness.

Photograph courtesy of ARRCC